Lowry Hill East’s Urban Village moves ahead

The Urban Village development along the Midtown Greenway took a significant step forward with the signing of a development contract, said City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward).

The Urban Village is a 190-unit development planned along the north side of the 29th Street Greenway between Aldrich and Dupont avenues in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood. The two blocks in Phase I involve two developers, Ross Fefercorn’s Country Home Builders and the Sherman Lander Group, each with its own block.

Niziolek said Fefercorn signed a development agreement with the city, and Niziolek expected that Sherman Lander would sign soon. "One down, one to go," he said.

Once the city has signed agreements, it can proceed with condemnation of the Sowles Crane Co. property, and getting the development contracts signed has been a long time coming.

Former Councilmember Lisa McDonald had blamed political foot-dragging at the Minneapolis Community Development Agency for the slow pace.

Niziolek said it wasn’t good use of his time to figure out historical problems.

"Did someone drag their feet?

I can’t find it. I can’t show it. It is water over the dam," he said.

In an unrelated development in the neighborhood, the city is looking at a May 1 deadline to work out a deal with Village Green to develop apartments on the surface parking lot at West Lake Street and Aldrich Avenue.

"It is 50-50," Niziolek said.

"I still see some things we have to negotiate out. I am cautiously optimistic."

The city has talked about selling the air rights to the lot so Village Green could build market-rate apartments. The city’s price was $9 a square foot, or roughly $280,000, said Mike Sachi, parking facilities project engineer. The market value has gone up since the last appraisal, however.

The development would require Village Green to build one level of underground parking for public use to replace the surface lot. One sticking point in negotiations is the amount the city would pay to operate and maintain that space, Sachi said. The city wants to limit that expense to the cost it would have otherwise paid to operate and maintain a surface lot.

If an agreement can’t be reached by May 1, the deal is probably dead, Sachi said. The lot would either remain surface parking, or the city would entertain proposals from other developers.